Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I just read Jenn's blog about the movie 27 Dresses, and how it basically teaches all of the female audience members that they will not be truly happy until they are "the better half" of a happy couple. I was planning on writing my blog about a typical day for me in Otranto, but after reading that, I thought I should put a big damper on the "a woman's not happy without a man" topic and instead, I've decided to write about a much more light and happy subject--divorce. A woman's not always happy with a man...

In talking to my counselor and also from what I have learned in my classes, divorce is one of the hardest events that someone can go though, only second to the death of a spouse or child. I can't imagine ever having to go through either of those things, and my heart breaks for those that have had to live through it. But I do think there is the possibility for there to be a bit more peace in death, because your love for them is pure, your missing and hurting is true and clear, and there was absolutely nothing you could do about it. It was out of your control. With divorce it is different, it's messy and confusing--and hardest of all, it is a choice. It's either choosing to no longer be with the person you thought you were going to spend your life with, or that person choosing to no longer spend their life with you. Whatever side you wind up on, it's hard as hell. You know that the person that you were once closest to, is still walking on this earth, continuing on with his/her life, and you are no longer a major part of it. You are no longer part of it at all.

On December 3rd, I went to court by myself to finalize everything. Leslie was in Trinidad, so it was considered an uncontested divorce, and was scarily simple. We split everything on our own terms (we didn't have a ton of stuff, just our bank accounts, the condo, and what was in it), signed some papers, he waived his right to be there, and I went with my mom (because you have to have a witness). We got to the couthouse early, in hopes that we could get in and out of there, and ended up waiting for almost 2 hours. As we were waiting I watched the other soon-to-be-uncoupled couples interact--it was so bizarre. One couple, who looked to be about the same age as me, were also there without lawyers. She arrived first, looking at her watch and rolling her eyes. He showed up 20 minutes later and they sat next to each other and started reviewing their paperwork. The dynamic was such a odd mixture--the familiarity was obviously one of two people who were once very close, they sat so close that their legs were touching. Yet, at the same time the hostility between them was also very apparent. I kept thinking to myself, "Right now they are married. When they walk out of that room they no longer will be. Huh. And, right now I am married. When I walk out of that room I no longer will be." Even though I kept telling myself that, I could not wrap my brain around it...

I finally got called into the courtroom, where we had to wait some more, for another proceeding that involved lawyers and custody discussions. I happend to be sitting next to the husband before they got called up and I heard him lean over to his lawyer and say "I can't believe this is really happening. It's so surreal." I hadn't cried all morning, but that nearly did it to me. He was right. It is surreal. How does that happen to 2 people? How can you stand across the courtroom from the person you are married to as though they are a total stranger?

The judge then called my name--my married name. I went up and stood in front of him with my mom at my side. He asked some questions--I don't really remember what they were, but one stuck in my mind "You've cited irreconsilable differences, so this means you've done everything in your power and the marriage can no longer work?" "Yes." I gulped, as the tears formed in my eyes. I think he saw that I was on the verge of losing it, took pity, and signed the papers.

I walked out of the courtroom in a daze. We got in the car and I turned on my cell phone. There was a message from Leslie. It wasn't until that minute that I broke down. The man on that message was no longer my husband. He was just Leslie. I was just Maggie, and he was just Leslie. No longer "The Fitzpatrick's", "Mags and Les," no longer a "we" or an "us." Just Maggie. And just Leslie. Ugh.

I know that we did the right thing. And with time, that is becoming more and more clear. I'm ok with being "just Maggie"...and, like the girl in 27 dresses, I too feel happy when I am part of a couple. But, I am learning how to also feel happy in those times when I am not part of one. And oddly, as I figure that out, the happiness I've found within "coupledom" has been much more fulfilling.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Introducing...A Little Girl's Large Life

In numerous blogs I've mentioned a very good friend of mine, and how without her I don't know if I would have made it through 2007. We've been friends since we were 10, but became much closer in our post-college years...our husbands got along famously. Well, now we are even closer in our post-husband years, and I've finally talked her into joining the blog community.

You see, she thinks I'm really interesting, funny, and extremely wise. And I think the same of her. So, we can each write our respective blogs, read what the other wrote, praise one another for our wit and perspective, and continue thinking we are funny, interesting and wise.

Hey, whatever works, right?

So anyway, with no futher adu (??)...Here's she is. A little girl (literally) with a big, BIG, life...


Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The city in which I am living is called Otranto, and it's the easternmost city in all of Italy. It is in the Puglia region of Italy, and it's where the Adriatic and Ionian seas meet. Although it does attract a fair amount of tourists in the spring/summer I'd still consider it a diamond in the rough. The population is about 6,000. The city which used to be one of largest political centers in Puglia has a rather sad history--this is what I've read:

"In 1480, without warning, an Ottoman Turkish fleet invaded, landing nearby the city and capturing it along with its fort. The Pope called for a crusade, with a massive force built up by Ferdinand I of Naples. The Neapolitan force met with the Turks in 1481, thoroughly annihilating them and recapturing Otranto. However, in the two battles, the city was utterly destroyed, and has never since recovered its importance since the sack of Otranto by the Turks, in which 12,000 men are said to have perished — among them, Bishop Stephen Pendinelli, who was sawn in half. A large percentage of these captured were given the choice of converting to Islam or death - none would convert, so 800 men were beheaded outside the city. The "valley of the martyrs" still recalls this dreadful event."

I haven't made it to the valley of the martys yet, but I've spent quite a bit of time in the "centro storic" or "old town" which is situated inside the walls protecting the castle (yes, the Argonese Castle still stands, and Paolo just told me that inside the castle are all of the remains of the men that were beheaded). From our condo we have a view of the castle and the sea and it looks different everytime you look at it, depending on where the sun is in the sky. It's so beautiful.

Inside the centro there are a ton of little shops selling clothes, art, food, crafts, etc. There are restraunts, bars (the Italian kind-- which means you go in, order an espresso, drink it while standing at the bar, pay 73 cents for it, and be on your way) and also the American kind where you can actually sit down and have a drink (not coffee) and watch the people as they stroll through the town. It's pretty quiet here now, since it's winter, but the days are getting nicer and nicer (I'd say the average tempature now is about 55 degrees), and the town is starting to come alive.

Since the weather has started to get warmer, vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers off carts have started to line the street along the sea. People are making day trips on the weekend to walk through the town, have lunch or dinner, and spend time shopping or walking along the water. There are also stores opened year round selling fresh fish (pescheria), fresh bread (pannetteria), fruit and vegetables, and sweets and coffee galore. There is scuba diving, and a ferry boat to Albania in the summer, and there are numberous festivals that take place once the weather gets warm. There is a small park in the middle of town with rides for kids, and stands selling fresh nuts, cotton candy, and other handmade sweets.

There is a small beach, and a marina, and lots of cliffs and rocky areas in which people also set up camp for days at the sea. Apparently sand isn't as important to them. I'm going to try to post some pictures directly into the blog--these aren't my own, I've taken some but not enough to post yet. And next time I'll write about a typical day here. It's really different than the US. Both good and bad. But, the one thing I can say for sure is, I have never lived in a place as beautiful as this. Even the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City don't come close.

It's Italy afterall...

The Cathedral

A house in the Old Town

A View of the Sea from the Castle

Another view from the castle

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Other Woman...

I wasn't planning on writing today, but this is just too good...

Today I had my 3rd Italian lesson, and we began by reviewing masculine and feminine nouns, singular and plural. It's tough for English speakers to remember that every object is feminine or masculine--so a car--la macchina, is female.

Anyway, my exercise was to take this list of objects and put them into the right categories based on their preceeding article. The exercise was actually in my Italian workbook, and it was about a very rich man, and the objects were a list of everything he has. So one by one, I put each object into it's correct section, while discussing with my teacher what each word meant. He has a wife, a yacht, an island in the pacific, a private jet, a personal trainer, and an AMANTE.

When we got to that word, I didn't know what it meant so I asked my teacher (who tries to only speak in Italian with me). She said, "amante = seconda donna" (second woman). Huh? She couldn't possibly mean what I think she was saying. So she repeated "amante= fidanzata" (girlfriend). Ok, so wait a second, this rich dude in exercise #4 has a MOGLIE (wife!!!) and an AMANTE (lover??!?).

Only in Italy.

Only in Italy, in the very beginning stages of your Italian lessons, would you learn the word for "mistress"...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

La Casa Mia (e di Paolo...)

For those of you that know me, and for those of you that have had the good fortune of being my roommate over the years, know that I am pretty much a freak about where I live. My mom is a decorator by trade, and apparently it's in the genes. I can be a little fanatical, I'm learning (sorry, Erin--you lived with me and "I want my dorm room/apartment/house THIS way" for six years...the agony...). Basically, I don't stop until it's exactly the way I want it, given the restraints I have to work with (space, money, time, etc).

So, when I walked into the condo that Paolo and I are living in for the next 4 months, I saw a georgous blank canvas. Nevermind the green tile floor, old beat-up royal blue futon, green wicker furniture with a floral pattern that at one time could have been ivory but were now a dullish grey or the completely sterile white walls. Forget that the kitchen is so tiny the refrigerator is in the dining room area, and who cares that the bathroom has 4 different types of tile-they are all some shade of blue, right? What I saw was a beautiful fireplace, FIVE floor to (almost) ceiling doors with a view overlooking the city and the sea, a huge great room with a great shape, and two good sized bedrooms. Bellissima!!!

After watching much TLC (not only do I learn loads from Stacy and Clinton) I've taken a lot of helpful tips on how to decorate on a shoestring budget from "Trading Spaces" and "While You Were Out." And much to Paolo's delight, have decided that some paint, and a few pieces of furniture...and rugs...and flowers...and more paint...and art....and the place will be in top shape in no time.

Now, normally, I wouldn't barge into someone elses house and decide to redecorate it (unless asked), but, this is one of a few rental houses that Paolo's family owns, and the nicer it looks the more they can rent it for. And we've been careful about what we've chosen. The new couch is a micro-suede that folds down into a bed, so the place can accomodate more than just the bedrooms, the chairs we bought for in front of the fireplace are papasan-like (smaller, with arms), so the cushions can be easily washed or replaced. The rugs are great--all seasons, big, and were only 40 euro each. (We spent a total of 550 on furniture--couch, 2 chairs, 2 footstools, coffee table, baskets to hold wood for the fire)--not to shabby.

There was some furniture already here, that is very, uh, circa 1973. The armoir that the TV sits on is wood with the cupboard doors covered in orange felt. Yeah. But, we've managed to work them into the color scheme, and now it *almost looks like we bought the piece on purpose. We've painted the large main room in a really pale orange, and the hallway, entryway and bedroom in a sandy color (best to go light, since it's mostly a summer home). It is amazing what a coat of paint can do for a place! Slowly it's transforming from a mish-mosh of forgotten furniture, to a cohesive, fucntional, warm space. I love it. And so does Paolo--now we can only hope his mamma feels the same way.

We took down her curtains, which were very pretty, green linen with panels of sheer floral patterns. I could tell they were very expensive and good quality. We are replacing them with simple off-white ones with a embroidered pattern along the top in a neutral color. The green was pretty, but with the orange walls it kinda had an easter egg effect. It's been the only thing she seemed a little adverse to...but, Paolo said when we leave she can put her green ones back up if she wants. (Hopefully when they see the place completed, they will love it...no one except his brother Vincenzo has seen what we've done to it so far).

So, basically, most of my time so far in Italy has been working my ass off in the condo. I could write about it as though it's a romantic comedy--young couple has a dream house that is a fixer- upper, and they turn it into a masterpiece. However, this is reality, there is no music montage of paint and construction and 5 minutes later--viola! it's done. Good Lord, don't I wish. My whole body hurts from painting, sanding, moving furniture, hauling things up two flights of stairs. But it's well worth it, because I can see Paolo falling more and more in love with it (mind you, this is his first "home" outside of his parents house--yep. It's Italy, that's how they do it. Mamma's house to wife's house) He's trying to break from that mold slowly, and when I leave, I think he will continue to live away from home. Which, in my mind (and in general in America) is a good thing.

Because of the work at home, I haven't been doing much exploring yet. I've had 2 Italian lessons, and it's overwhelming. I feel like I will never be able to learn it. I'm taking private lessons 3 days a week until classes start in mid-February. Hopefully, I will have a good handle on the basics by the time classes start. My classes for my Master's program start tomorrow, and I don't have my books yet (as usual), but my parents got them yesterday and so I should have them early next week.

Next blog, I will write about Otranto, and our life in this little town. But, for now, Paolo just got home from work and we are going to make lunch, do a bit more painting, and study.

Ciao a tutti!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

Happy 2008! I've been completely blog-dispondant, but now that I am back in Italy, and can only talk to one person (Paolo) because I don't know the language yet, the blog will be a welcome outlet to communicate, in English, when I'm desperate to say what I want to say without having to explain what I am saying. Hai capito? You understand?

Anyway, a quick recap of the last couple of months...

Since I returned from my trip I've been staying at my parents house, because it didn't make sense for me to rent a place since I was only going to be in Ohio for 4 months. Lately, I seem to do things in 4 month increments. Living with them has it's perks and downfalls, naturally, but overall we have a good time together. I got a job in Uptown Westerville at a cute little store called Encircle, which helped me to pay for my cell phone bill and go out to dinner (but not much else).

Paolo came to stay with me from right before Thanksgiving until January 2nd, when we both returned to Italy together. So it's going to be a total of 5.5 months of being together nonstop--wow. It was so fun having him around for the holidays, because he's always so happy. He loved Thanksgiving dinner, which was to be expected, as Paolo loves ALL food. He did wonderful at the chaotic holiday family get-togethers, where there are around 40 aunts, uncles, cousins all piled into one house. Not only did he have to try to remember all of their real names, they all seem to have nicknames too. It wasn't long before I looked from the kitchen into the dining room and see him tossing my cousin's daughter up in the air and her squealing with delight "again! again!" He fit right in. He was even a good sport during the gift exchange (if you can call it that)--which can get pretty intense--alliances are built, strategies are put into place, all relationships are pushed to the wayside, people will even steal from our 92 year old grandmother-figure. Paolo got his gift stolen and wound up with the laser level. Later he told me, "it's a nice gift Maggie, men always like tools." (The men I've had in my life, uh-hem, Dad, don't seem to know a hammer from a wrench, so this was new to me). And my dad's gotten a laser level before, and I think he response was "I always get the sucky gifts."

Aside from the holidays, we spent a lot of time studying, spending time with my friends, checking out the city, Christmas shopping, going to dinner--he became a big fan of sushi, thank God. I was worried about what he'd like to eat, because in Italy there really is only one type of food--Italian. Literally, they really do eat pasta everyday. So when I asked him what he wanted for dinner one night and he said "either Chipotle or Japanese" I fell in love even more. He was tired a lot, which I can understand the feeling. Even at night if we'd be watching TV, it was still work for him because he was trying so hard to understand. It's not like he could just zone out. We'd usually watch the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet where the narrator usually spoke relatively slowly, or What Not to Wear--who better to learn english from that Stacy London and Clinto Kelly????

We ended 2007 with some of my best friends, cousins, drinking, eating and dancing. For my friend Jennifer and I, 2008 really, truly marks a new beginning. Here I am, in Italy, learning Italian, living in a small coastal town, with a view of the sea. Jenn, just got a job as a Federal Prosecutor and will be moving to LA in September, where she will be living a real life Law and Order episode. Yeah, she'll be going on FBI stings and stuff--I love it. She's 5'1" and looks like she's 19. She is going to tear up that town.

But for both of us, 2007 was more than difficult. At some points neither of us could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It just goes to show you that no matter what, the future is always going to be different than today (got that piece of wisdom from my Google "quotes of the day"). I take solace in that. If today sucks, tomorrow might not--who knows? And if today is great, tomorrow might not be...but no matter what, we can count on it being different. That will never change.

So with 2007 being behind me, and 2008 at it's very beginnings, I am filled with hope, anticipation, and some almost closed battle wounds.

In the days to follow, I'll write about the town in which I am living, our crazy condo, my first Italian lessons, and what it is like to be fully immersed in a culture. I'm in the very south--the heel of the boot. There is no English spoken here, so it is sink or swim. (Or tote around a cute little translator named Paolo). He'd like to write a blog of his own, because I have had some great "Maggie-isms" where I've created my own words in Italian. What goes around comes around, and I'm beginning to pay for lauging at him calling his neck a "neckle"...